Brace yourselves. On May 5th we’re due for an astronomical occurrence that enjoyed relative obscurity until last year it was blamed for the devastating 2011 earthquake off the coast of Japan (we’ll get to that later). Can you guess? That’s right, another Super Moon. First, let me say that I hate this term, but I’ll probably use it interchangeably with “lunar perigee.”
The Moon revolves the earth every 29.5 days or so, and because its orbit is elliptical, it has an apogee (farthest point) and perigee (closest point). Granted, it doesn’t get that much closer, and without being able to see the moon at each point side by side (or in great NASA time lapses) you’re not likely to be able to tell the difference. Also, while it does swing closer, it’s only about 14% closer, and the moon is really far away. Really far. Here’s some reference:
That doesn’t cause folks from speculating though. The term Super Moon and its subsequent (non)effects were coined by Richard Noelle, who actually got some press for his pseudoscience in the Daily Fail. He claimed that the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and the quake in Christchurch, New Zealand were caused by super moons. It’s too bad that not only is it impossible, the moon wasn’t even at perigee either time. If there was any gravity—ha ha—to his claim, would be when the moon would have the most effect.
No worries, he made sure to spread the goal posts pretty wide, stating that a super moon could cause an earthquake in a range of up to 7 days before or after lunar perigee. For those of you that are good with days of the month, you’ll realize that this is half the damned month. On top of that, since earthquakes happen every day all over the world, he’s almost guaranteed to get a hit on his crackpot theory.
Bad Astronomer Phil Plait (featured above as an Astronomozombie) did a pretty kickass takedown of the whole thing last year.
UPDATE: Phil actually just posted an article about the Super Moon. COINCIDENCE?! His post is about 1000x more helpful than mine, so go take a look!
This post was brought to you by my shame, because I promised I would have MoCCA Fest sketches, and there are none. My scanner was on the fritz this morning. I will deliver as a bonus within the next few days.
This post is part of our ongoing series that I like to call, Sci-ənce Hates/Loves The Moon. Check it out: